As McCallie’s offense trotted onto the field with 2:44 remaining in the 2006 football season opener, the only hope of victory would require nothing short of a miracle.
The Blue Tornado trailed top-ranked Riverdale 27-13 and were beginning a drive from their own 10-yard line. The bizarre combination of big plays by McCallie and questionable decisions by the Murfreesboro team added up to three Tornado touchdowns in the final 1:33 and a thrilling victory that sparked a run to the state championship game.
That amazing ending helped make that the fifth best game on the Times Free Press sports staff’s list of the top 10 greatest games since 1990.
With no timeouts remaining, McCallie senior quarterback B.J. Coleman drove his team 90 yards for a touchdown that narrowed the gap to seven points. But after Riverdale recovered the onside kick, all the Warriors had to do was kneel on the ball three times and run out all but a few seconds of game time.
Instead of taking a knee, the Warriors opted for a quarterback sneak and Scott Thomas was stripped of the ball by Josh Bain, with John Wells recovering for McCallie at its 48.
McCallie coach Ralph Potter, who reminded the defense before that play, “If you get near the ball, strip it,” suggested a miraculous turnover like that could happen only because of a little helpful input from his late father Pete, the longtime McCallie coach who died in 1995.
“I think what happened was Coach [Ron] Aydelott asked God what he should do before that play,” Potter said afterward. “So God turned to my dad and said, ‘Pete, what do you think?’
“Dad told the Lord they should run the quarterback sneak.”
After converting a third-and-10 on the ensuing possession, Coleman passed to Johnny Newman for a 2-yard touchdown, and Joel Bradford’s extra point tied the game with 22 seconds remaining.
Again, rather than kneeling on the ball and forcing overtime, Riverdale opted to throw, despite having failed on its last two passes. McCallie’s A.J. Busby hit Thomas as he threw the ball, and Thomas Green intercepted the pass near midfield. Two plays later, Coleman launched a pass that traveled 54 yards in the air before coming down at the goal line. The ball was batted four times by three Warriors defenders, each of whom could have knocked it down to force overtime. Instead, Walter Dozier reached out and made a sensational catch in the end zone to steal the win.
“After we scored, I made a complete fool of myself jumping around, yelling and celebrating,” Coleman said later. “But I don’t care how it looked. That’s something you dream about when you’re a kid playing in the back yard. It’s something we’ll remember the rest of our lives."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...